Midwinter Ren Faire

Kings and queens, lords and ladies, unsavory back alley dwellers, the Cedar Rapids Public Library humbly presents the Midwinter Renaissance Faire!

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Delightful demonstrations of artisan crafts will dazzle the senses. Music will tickle the ears. The clash of swords will captivate the eyes. The brilliance of scholars will baffle the mind. All of this and so much more at the Cedar Rapids Public Library January 17th from 10 am to 4 pm!

More to come. Stay tuned.

Review: Zombies vs. Unicorns

I’m not sure what could be better than a book devoted to zombies AND unicorns. Pretty much nothing, I think… pretty much nothing.

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This short story collection presented by Holly Black (Coldest Girl in Coldtown, Spiderwick Chronicles) and Justine Larbalestier (Magic or Madness, Liar) has it all. With Holly for Team Unicorn and Justine for Team Zombie, the two ladies open each story with why one is better than the other. The authors that they got together are fantastic. Here’s the line up. I must say that is a pretty impressive group:

Alaya Dawn Johnson (The Summer Prince) 

Maureen Johnson (The Name of the Star, 13 Little Blue Envelopes)

Carrie Ryan (The Forest of Hands and Teeth)12

Scott Westerfeld (Uglies, Leviathan)

Meg Cabot (The Princess Diaries, Shadowland)

Garth Nix (Sabriel, A Confusion of Princes)

Kathleen Duey (Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron)

Margo Lanagan (Tender Morsels)

Naomi Novik (His Majesty’s Dragon)

Diana Peterfreund (Rampant)

Libba Bray (The Diviners, A Great and Terrible Beauty)

Cassandra Clare (Clockwork Angel, City of Bones)

 

Each of these power houses went up to bat for either Team Zombie or Team Unicorn. The stories themselves were so well done. The authors bring in very unique, often disturbing versions of the creatures we thought we knew.

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No really…

Jacob and I are taking the month off from programming. Well, sort of. I mean, we still have all of the regular scheduled stuff: Anime Club, ITforTeens, Geek Out. But we need your help.

 

WHAT DO YOU PEOPLE WANT FROM US?!?

 

That just translates into: What would you like to see happen at the library?

We’re getting some new tech toys and the Gaming Room will be new and improved in January. In the meantime, we are busily trying to decide next year’s line up. And let’s face it, you guys are not that great about coming to see us sometimes.

So tell us what you think. What would you like to see? We can basically do anything. Let’s even make it a challenge.

 

Give me something outrageous and let’s see if we can make it happen. (It better be appropriate. *glare*)

 

 

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Anime Spotlight: Mushishi

So, I’m still here. I’m not sure how it happened but that’s the fact of it. I’ve found myself in charge of writing another Anime Spotlight. Molly’s back as she said she would be, her time for writing anime review, alas, has not.  So let’s get right into it shall we?

This month’s title is:

Mushishi

Remember that time you woke up and everything about the day felt strange? The longer the day lasted the more certain you were that you had never woken up at all? This series is like that, except all the time. Based on a manga series by Yuki Urushibara that won a slew of awards during its initial publication. The anime itself won the 2006 Tokyo Anime Award and even saw a second season enter production earlier this year.

Plot:

They exist in the most unexpected places — be it within your eyes and ears, under the floor and roof of your house, or the trees and flowers in your garden. They are everywhere and yet nowhere at the same time. Are they alive or not? Perhaps it is more apt to say they are beings who transcend the concept of life and death itself…

mushishi5They are mushi.

Some wreak havoc in the lives of humans; while others bring them deliverance from suffering. Mushi are neither good, nor evil; for just like any other creature, they are merely striving to survive in this harsh, competitive world.

Ginko – a lone wanderer with a reclusive personality, offers help and guidance to those plagued by mushi. This is the tale of his travels and exploits in a wondrous world populated by these mysterious entities.

(Stolen from myanimelist.net because when something is perfect, you don’t try to improve upon it, you steal it.)

Things I liked

+ Story-telling + With a show as original and untouched upon as this one, the stories it sought to tell would more-or-less decide whether the anime worked. Fortunately, despite the fact we have entered a new age of style of substance with regards to story- telling in more recent years, Mushishi offers a contemplative and even slow approach to story-telling. It’s not unlike a nature documentary. You a meant to watch, to gaze upon this otherwise unknown thing and take the raw, unfiltered beauty of this unknown nature, taking in Ginko’s explanation as narrative fact as he delves into and ultimately solves the curiosity placed in front of us.

mushishi02jd3+ Music + Minimalistic, but absolutely suited to the stories being told. The music of the series feels more like a natural extension of the story than something placed in after the fact. There is something haunting and beautiful in the way it moves.

+ Grounded Magic + Something about the way the show balances the surreal magic of the mushi with the grounded turmoil of daily real life. It succeeds at delivering something supernatural that is both magical and grounded in the captivating and sometimes cruel nature we are all familiar with.

+ Atmosphere + There is something about the way the entire show ties together that makes it greater than the sum of its parts. It creates a dreamy and captivating atmosphere filled with equal parts awe, mystery, and even horror.

Things I Didn’t Like

Nothing.

Honestly, there is nothing I disliked about this anime. Some might fault the pacing, but everything the anime does it does with calculated style, there isn’t a hint of anything negative to say about it. It is one of those easily approachable anime you can use to woo naysayers of anime into grudgingly acknowledging the value of Japanese animation as art. There are no cliché pretty boys, no chest-heavy damsels, nor is there a single atomic powered mech in the whole of this show.

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Mushishi
is a slow, thoughtful series that offers subtle beauty in a world that has forgotten the power of a moment of silence. It is a show that harkens back to the time when video wasn’t simply an industry of distraction, it was an artist’s canvas.  It’s a vision of life, humanity, and everything that entails. Mushishi is a dream that carries all the greatest virtues of when we told stories around the fire. Mushishi is slow and it is thoughtful. It will teach you what it is to stand awe of something profound. If you give it a bit of your time you will not be disappointed.

Notes

Contains some language and disturbing imagery, but otherwise contains nothing objectionable.

The anime is available on for rent at our library (hurray!) and is also still available for purchase on DVD and Blu-ray. The manga, however, has been out of print for several years but is available at any number of eBook stores.

CRPL and NANOWRIMO

That’s a lot of acronyms going on. Well obviously, CRPL is Cedar Rapids Public Library. And NANOWRIMO is National Novel Writing Month!!

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We’re super excited, if you couldn’t tell.

Basically, this is what’s going to happen:

Write. Write. Write. Write like crazy. Write.

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But in a fun way! We have events all month to get your creativity flowing.

11/7: Pencil People 4 – 5, this is our new writing club! We can’t wait to read your stuff.

11/8: Teen Advisory Board, 11 – 12, come up us dream up some cool things for people to do.

11/10: Novel Launch 4:30 – 5:30,  Get answers to all of your novel writing questions. How do I start? What do I write? What happens next?

11/12: Story Mash Ups 4:30 – 5:30, Story Mash Ups provide endless opportunities for exciting new stories and twists using your favorite characters.

11/13: Words Workshop 4:30 – 5:30, Talking about words and all the different ways they can be used. From poetry to prose and everything in between.

11/14: Pencil People, Did I mention it meets every Friday this month?

11/17: Words Workshop at Ladd!

11/19: Geek Out 6 – 7, Geek Out is all about writing this month.

11/24: The Studio 4 – 6, Finish your novel! You can do it.

11/25: The Studio 4 – 6, Have you figured out that there’s a pattern? (It’s writing…)

That is a crazy amount of events. ANNNNNNND there will be writing games and prompts in the Room all month.

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How do you start? Well you can sign up and be formal about it. Or you can just set a personal goal to write a short story or a haiku or something. There are stickers and fun things.

Teen Read Week is upon us!!

I am so so so so pumped about Teen Read Week. This year’s theme is Turn Dreams into Reality. This theme is pretty good. But then I saw the graphics…

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This is meh. I was really hoping for something more like this:

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From Illustrated Dreams blog.

 

And the actual one is okay, I guess… I just really wanted to have creepy dream world graphics instead of our typical “reach for the stars…” blah blah blah inspirational quote. What do you think of the graphics this year?

 

 

ANYWAY!!!! Still excited. It’s still going to be the most amazing week ever. EVER.

 

Our big event for the week is:

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We are (insert another word for excited here) about having local businessy people come talk to us. You better be too. And bring your equally excited friends. You do not want to see me cry if no one shows up. It’s really pathetic.

 

Look for other fun things going on all week in the Union.

 

 

 

 

I mean, it could have even looked like the cover of Slide by Jill Hathaway. (She’s from Iowa, by the way.)

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Sorry… I’m done now.

 

Teen Read Week is awesome.

Anime Spotlight: Azumanga Daioh

I don’t want to scare you or anything, but I’m not Molly. This may concern you. Some of you even now could be gnashing your teeth and cursing me for not being the purveyor of all things teen that you are used to, and I understand. You may also be asking yourself, “Hey, stranger typing to me on a computer, whatever happened to the great and beneficent Molly?” Let me answer that question first.

I don’t want to alarm anyone, but several days ago Molly was abducted by aliens. Don’t worry. I’m given to understand they are very kind and treating her well. She is, however, out of galaxy for the time being.

This leads us to me. While enjoying my American breakfast of bacon wrapped doughnuts drizzled in gravy, I received a text from Molly on her way past Jupiter telling me that she was going to be late and asking whether or not I would mind writing an anime review for the CRPL Teen Blog.

So it was off to the haberdasher for a new outfit and with a fistful of dreams I will attempt to write a review worth reading. So, without further ado, the series of the month is…

Azumanga Daioh

I watched this series in less than eight hours. Which is only weird because it is over nine and a half hours long; I might be magic.

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Plot

Azumanga Daioh is a comedy series written by Kiyohiko Azuma, (the same man who would later go on to create Yotsuba!&). Based on a yonkoma (four panel) comic strip of the same name, the title literally translates to Great King Azumanga, (hence the title of the blogpost. Get it?! No? … Psh, whatever, I’m both clever and hilarious). It was adapted into an anime in 2001, the series consisting of 130 five-minute segments squished ever so sweetly into 26 episodes. Set in contemporary Japan, it follows seven eccentric students (as well as their two teachers) from the beginning of high school all the way up to graduation.

 

Things I liked

+ The Characters + The series itself is entirely character driven. This may sound strange given that from the ten-year-old genius Chiyo to the psychotically energetic Tomo, each character is basically an anime trope stretched to its extreme. However, through their interactions with one another we are shown that they each have their own hopes, dreams, and problems that define them as characters.

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+ Humor + While the humor may not be funny to some people, it struck me perfectly. It is absurd and zany, and absolutely wonderful. The jokes are timed well and I never found the the running gags spaced far enough apart that I never found myself annoyed at the pacing.

+ Slice of Life + The series can essentially be watched starting from any episode. There is a chronology, but no overarching plot to speak of . More than that however, there is something about this series that feels, for lack of a better term, real. There is no melodrama, no giant mech battles, nor is there a single love triangle. It’s just normal high school: class, sports, and summer vacation. They start off in high school and by the end they have blossomed out and into society at large. If you watch it in order you will find yourself looking back or, depending on your age, looking toward your time in high school. It is a series that can be watched both in pieces, but offers significantly more when watched in order.

Things I Didn’t Like

– Backgrounds – I know this seems like a strange thing to pick out, but it’s a pretty big issue here. While the characters are animated well, the background are little more than outlines which would be more of a problem if attention wasn’t almost exclusively on the characters.

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– Music – It has background music. Period. It is forgettable. It serves its purpose and then it disappears. If you are looking for something that you can listen to on its own and enjoy, you’ll have to look somewhere else.

 

– The End – Not so much the ending, but the fact that it had to end at all. This much fun is hard to find in a series and should be savored.

Notes

Contains mild language and some adult situations, but nothing objectionable if you are over the age of thirteen, which seeing as this is a ‘teen blog’ seems almost not worth mentioning.

The original manga lasted four volumes and its omnibus can occasionally be found floating around resell shops and bookstores. The anime is a bit harder to come across, but if you look hard enough you can find it available to watch on certain online resources.

Remember that time I mentioned Azuma’s other series Yotsuba!&? You should read it. Like now. Stop what you are doing, come to the library and read it. It’s funny, cute, and full of enough heart that it might literally kill you from its sweetness (or at the very least give you diabetes).